The FCC report and ‘hyperlocal’

The Federal Communications Commission released today the 300+ page report “The Information Needs of Communities: The changing media landscape in a broadband age”.

The report is an exhaustive overview of modern American media in traditional and emerging formats. The term “hyperlocal” is mentioned 63 times. Here is a sample of “hyperlocal” mentions:

(follow the report chat on Twitter at #FCCFoM)

p 10: “Hyperlocal information is better than ever. technology has allowed citizens to help create and share news on a very local level—by town, neighborhood, or even block. these sites mostly do not operate as profitable businesses, but they do not need to. this is journalism as voluntarism—a thousand points of news.”

p 14: “Low-power FM was created by Congress to provide community broadcasting, and some of the 800 LPFM stations provide excellent hyperlocal programming. A bill that was signed into law in January 2011 is intended to help spawn more stations, but it is too early to know what its effects will be.”

p 16: “Perhaps no area has been more dramatically transformed than ‘hyperlocal’ —coverage on the neighborhood or block by block level. Even in the fattest-and-happiest days of traditional media, they could not regularly provide news on such a granular level. Professional media have been joined by a wide range of local blogs, email lists, websites and the proliferation of local groups on national websites like Facebook or Yahoo! For the most part, hyperlocallyoriented websites and blogs do not operate as profitable businesses, but they do not need to. This is journalism as voluntarism—a thousand points of news.

p 18: “Hundreds of nonprofit websites have sprung up, and have made significant contributions in the realm of hyperlocal news, national investigative journalism, international coverage, and citizen journalism.”

p 19: “Low-power FM (LPFM) stations: There are already 800 in existence, and a new law has increased the likelihood that hundreds more hyperlocal radio stations will be established.”

p 21: “Hyperlocal (neighborhood-based) information is better than ever: Technology has allowed citizens to help create and share news on a very local level—by small town, neighborhood, and even block.”

p 42: “Future trends that might reduce the advertising advantages of community newspapers include the expansion of hyperlocal websites, the development of mobile advertising that targets phones based on geography, the extension of websites such as Craigslist into smaller cities and towns, and the advancement of strategies by search engines to capture local advertisers. The timing and impact of these trends on community newspapers, however, remain very open questions.”

p 56: “What is more, while legacy newspapers used to lag in innovation, some have become quite creative in their use of social media, database journalism, and community engagement. For instance, the Journal Register Company had its papers create new web operations using free, publically available tools, enlisting community members in the news creation process. Many have made great strides in using web tools and reader contributions to beef up ‘hyperlocal’ coverage of neighborhoods. ‘There is a new formula typically relying on some professional news staff, editing and coordinating, but with most of the content coming from volunteer or semi-professional writers based in the communities they cover,’ Pew’s State of the News Media 2011 reported. Blogs, crime maps, user generated video and photos, social networking, photo galleries—many of them innovations pioneered by independent websites—can now be found on most newspaper sites.”

p 81: “Perhaps the most widespread new web initiative among local [television] stations is the development of ‘hyperlocal’ community websites, which allows for more granular coverage. In Charlotte, North Carolina, alone, Raycom Media has launched 60 community websites that will offer neighborhood-based hyperlocal websites. DataSphere, the company building the sites for Raycom, is also launching 160 neighborhood sites for other broadcasters, including Fisher Communication. In June 2010, Gannett Broadcasting launched hyperlocal sites in 10 markets. Belo Corp. has partnered with Broadcast Interactive Media (BIM), which has over 90 affiliates in 73 markets. BIM’s products, such as the user-generated content platform YouNews, allow Belo stations’ website users to upload videos, photos, and stories to local websites and also enables online contests, and content exchange. These efforts have been rewarded, in part, with increased online ad revenue. Local TV online revenue was $1.34 billion in 2010 compared with $1.08 billion in 2008.”

p 81: “The 2010 RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey of news directors found that staffing for television websites on average has gone up by as much as one full-time employee and one-part time employee over the last year. As more stations invest meaningful dollars into building up their hyperlocal web coverage, it will be important to see whether they will also invest in additional reporters to help provide this more granular coverage.”

p 82: “Collaborations are even happening between long-time competitors. In Seattle, KING 5 has teamed up with the Seattle Times to create a local online ad network that potentially will offer revenue to local blogs and hyperlocal sites. But these are only isolated examples of local stations trying to enhance their coverage through partnerships with other journalistic outfits. There are more opportunities. Newspapers are struggling to have more impact with fewer resources. Hundreds of new local news websites are producing good local journalism but lack a sufficient audience. Local public radio has begun to invest in local news. All of them have content—and need exposure. Meanwhile, local TV stations are producing more and more hours of news, with fewer people.”

p 121: section begins “Expanding Hyperlocal Coverage”

p 121: “Among businesses that aggregate news, there are some that focus specifically on hyperlocal news, such as Topix, Outside.In, Placeblogger, and’s Everyblock. Without the burden of the infrastructure required to produce and distribute a newspaper, hyperlocal websites—whether run by an individual or a large corporation—can keep costs low. Executives of Patch, a network of hyperlocal sites owned by AOL, say that a Patch site costs 4.1 percent of what a comparable print daily community newspaper does to operate.”

p 123: “In Philadelphia, a study by J-Lab: the Institute for Interactive Journalism, which funds innovative web journalism start-ups, found a plethora of new blogs, hyperlocal sites, and budding collaborations—including 260 new blogs (at least 60 with some “journalistic DNA”) and as many as 100 people working part time or full time to produce news about Philadelphia.50 Yet despite that explosion of news ‘outlets,’ J-Lab researchers concluded that overall, ‘the available news about Philadelphia public affairs issues has dramatically diminished over the last three years [from 2006 to 2009] by many measures: news hole, air time, story count, key word measurements.'”

p 124: “The Knight Foundation’s New Voices initiative found that most of its 55 local web-based news projects were providing (often very useful) hyperlocal coverage that had never been offered by metropolitan dailies before. But a study assessing these programs concluded that, ‘Rarely did they replace coverage that had vanished from legacy news outlets—or even aspire to.'”

p 125: “Having studied the new breed of news websites, Michele McLellan wrote that those websites often offer hyperlocal services that traditional media never did but, on the other hand, do not fill the gaps in reporting left by the newspapers, ‘The tired idea that born-on-the-Web news sites will replace traditional media is wrong-headed, and it’s past time that academic research and news reports reflect that.'”

p 139: “Local television stations are seeking to develop ‘hyperlocalized’ mobile news platforms that focus on the concerns of individual neighborhoods and even more narrowly defined communities. For example, LIN TV Corporation, owner of 28 local TV stations,90 is partnering with News Over Wireless ‘to bring local text and video updates to mobile phones,’ and local NBC affiliates are partnering with ‘the neighborhood site Outside.In to provide information about local news, events and other things.’ More than 230 iPhone apps were offered by local TV stations in 2010.”

p 158: “Many PBS stations are experimenting with new models. CPB has recently created Local Journalism Centers, drawing together local public TV and radio to do original reporting. Some local public television stations are creating hyperlocal websites for neighborhoods in their markets. Jim Lehrer is traveling the country trying to convince local stations to team up with newspapers to provide local newscasts. He noted that KLRN is working with the San Antonio Express to create a local news show.”

p 162: “CPB also is co-sponsoring, a website produced by the Philadelphia PBS- and NPR-affiliate, WHYY, that emphasizes hyperlocal reporting and teams community members with station editors to produce content for multiple platforms (TV, radio, Internet, and mobile). Focusing on seven distinct neighborhoods, the website also features a discussion forum, where community members can ‘exchange ideas around the clock.’”

p 190: “Beyond these organizations, there are hundreds if not thousands of hyperlocal bloggers covering their blocks, neighborhoods, and communities that can be categorized as nonprofit sources of information, even though they may not have formally established themselves as either a business or a nonprofit.”

p 191: “The Knight Foundation’s New Voices initiative, which funded 55 hyperlocal projects, found that sites were offering great content but that most relied on volunteer labor. Jan Shaffer, who studied the projects, observed, ‘There is a mismatch between instilling sustainable civic demand for local news information and developing sustainable economic models. While most of the New Voices sites are exploring hybrid models of support, none is raising enough money to pay full salaries and benefits.’ Most of the existing local news websites are not large enough to generate sufficient advertising revenue. An analysis for the Future of Media project of Toledo, Richmond, and Seattle indicates that no nonprofit start-ups had broken into the top five (or even the top ten) in terms of traffic in those cities.”

p 194: “Some journalism schools have focused on providing hyperlocal information and reporting. New York University, City University of New York (CUNY), and the University of California–Berkeley all run websites featuring writing by students and neighborhood residents on hyperlocal issues.”

p 196: “CUNY established a Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism initially capitalized at $10 million (largely funded by foundation gifts) to train students how to create new journalism enterprises. At NYU’s journalism school, Professor Jay Rosen created a hyperlocal site about the East Village with the New York Times. ‘Deciding how to launch the site, how it should operate, and how to make it effective in the East Village community are ideal tasks for students,’ Rosen says. The students are ‘immersed in the innovation puzzle in journalism.'”.

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